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Lakes States Forest Management Bat Habitat Conservation Plan

Bat HCP and the Landowner Enrollment Program

In response to federal listings of four bat species, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota developed a Lakes States Forest Management Bat Habitat Conservation Plan (Bat HCP) to protect covered bat species on forestlands while still allowing covered forest management activities to continue. In 2023, Wisconsin DNR was issued a federal Incidental Take Permit (ITP) to accompany the Bat HCP. The Landowner Enrollment Program (LEP) allows eligible non-federal landowners to receive incidental take coverage under Wisconsin’s ITP.

Covered Bat Species

The Bat HCP covers three bat species in Wisconsin that use forests in the state and are affected by white-nose syndrome. A fourth species (Indiana bat, Myotis sodalis) is covered under the Bat HCP but is not found in Wisconsin.

Northern Long-eared Bat
Northern Long-eared BatPhoto by Jennifer Redell/DNR

Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis)

The state is listed as threatened and the federally listed as endangered.

  • A cave-hibernating bat severely affected by WNS.
  • In summer, roosts in cracks, crevices and peeling bark on live and dead trees during the day.
  • Forages along forest edges and forest interior.
Little Brown Bat
Little Brown BatPhoto by Heather Kaarakka/DNR

Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus)

The state is listed as threatened and under discretionary review for federal listing.

  • Hibernates underground in winter, sometimes in large groups.
  • Primarily roosts in bat houses, bridges, barns and other buildings during the day in summer. They may be found roosting in tree cavities and crevices.
  • Forages along forest edges and riparian areas.
Tricolored Bat
Tricolored BatPhoto by Heather Kaarakka/DNR

Tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus; formerly eastern pipistrelle)

The state listed as threatened and proposed for federally listed as endangered (final decision in 2023).

  • A cave-hibernating bat severely affected by WNS.
  • In summer, day roosts primarily in live and dead leaf clusters such as those found in oaks and hickories.
  • Forages along forest edges and in wet forests and other riparian areas.

Covered Forest Management Activities

Bat Roost TreeBat Roost Tree by Heather Kaarakka/DNR

The Bat HCP covers three main forest management activities: timber harvest, prescribed fire, and forestry road and recreational trail construction and maintenance. Note - Permanent forestry roads, trail development, and maintenance are only covered on state and county lands. Explore the Bat HCP Resource Library to learn more about protected activities.

Landowner Enrollment Program

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the northern long-eared bat as federally endangered, they determined that timber harvest and forestry activities could cause incidental take during normal operations. By enrolling in the LEP, non-federal landowners can reduce the impact of forest management activities on forest bats and receive incidental take coverage under Wisconsin’s ITP. County, municipal, tribal and private landowners who conduct timber harvest or prescribed burns on large acres (>10,000 acres) of forestlands or near bat roost trees or hibernacula may be eligible to receive incidental take coverage of forest bats during timber harvest, forest management and prescribed burns. Enrollment is voluntary. View the Bat HCP Resource Library training modules to learn more about the LEP.

LEP Eligibility
LEP Eligibility Checklist
Bat Roost CavityBat Roost Cavity by Heather Kaarakka/DNR)
  • All County Forests, regardless of whether they meet the size or habitat feature criteria.
  • Landowners conducting forest management and own more than 10,000 acres of forestlands in Wisconsin (contiguous or noncontiguous). The acreage eligibility threshold drops to 500 acres if the little brown bat is federally listed.
  • Landowners conducting forest management activities on forestlands that contain or overlap with at least one bat habitat feature*:
    • Lands of any size that include known hibernaculum entrances or are within the 0.25-mile buffer of known access.
    • Lands of any size that contain a known occupied maternity roost tree or overlap with the 150-foot roost tree buffer.

    *Use the screening map to determine if a bat habitat feature has been documented in the county or township of the property. If the county has a habitat feature documented, send a map, GIS shapefile or latitude/longitude coordinates of the property to the DNR Bat HCP Coordinator to determine if the property includes or is within a buffer of a habitat feature.

What if a landowner is not eligible for the LEP?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has more information about other steps landowners can take that do not meet the size or habitat features criteria on the eligibility checklist.
LEP Application Process

Eligible landowners should contact the Bat HCP Coordinator to confirm eligibility. Please include the following information.

  • Owner name and contact information
  • LEP eligibility criteria met
  • A map or GIS file that includes all property boundaries, township-range information and enough detail to determine the location accurately. GIS files can be developed in Google Earth or by the DNR maps application.

The Bat HCP Coordinator will work with confirmed landowners to develop a Landowner Agreement and an LEP Certificate of Inclusion.

LEP Landowner Agreement Implementation

Landowners in the LEP agree to implement bat conservation measures detailed in the Bat HCP, including following retention guidelines during timber harvest and implementing no-cut buffers around bat hibernacula and known roost trees to protect these vital bat habitat areas. More details about conservation measures can be found in Chapter 5 of the Bat HCP.

In addition to implementing conservation measures, landowners will report annually on timber harvest and forest management activities. The annual compliance report is due March 31 each year and details activities conducted on enrolled lands during the previous calendar year.

Bat HCP Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a Bat HCP needed?
  • White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a devastating disease of hibernating bats in North America.
    • WNS can cause mass mortality in hibernating bats; 70-95% declines in winter hibernation sites are expected.
    • Several bats are currently on the Federal Endangered Species list or have been petitioned to be listed federally because of WNS.
  • Bats affected by WNS also use Wisconsin forests for day roosts and foraging in summer and movement in spring and fall.
  • Forestry activities such as timber harvest can potentially cause the “take” (harm, harass, or kill) of federally listed species.
  • The U.S. Endangered Species Act prohibits the taking of federally listed species.
How does the Bat HCP help bats?

Forest management activities can benefit bats and other wildlife while maintaining healthy forests and generating income for landowners and timber companies.

Many of Wisconsin’s bats spend spring, summer and fall in the state’s forests, where they roost in tree foliage, cavities and crevices, and under loose bark during the day. Female bats give birth to young while in these tree roosts and before they can fly, young bats may be vulnerable to the effects of normal forest management activities. Forests are also critical foraging habitats for bats.

The Bat HCP provides guidelines for forest management of large tracts of forestlands that will benefit bats, such as by keeping potential roost trees like snags and cavity trees during harvest, retaining a portion of the forest in uncut patches during harvest, and retaining priority bat habitats such as forest near or adjacent to wetlands and riparian areas. Additionally, the Bat HCP protects critical bat habitat features such as known summer roost trees and hibernation sites by restricting harvest within surrounding areas of these features. At both summer roosts and winter hibernacula, bats frequently congregate in groups and are vulnerable to disturbance.

Protecting and providing roost trees and foraging areas in forests may help bat populations recover from WNS impacts by ensuring they have access to vital habitats to complete their life cycle.

Can I apply for incidental take coverage for non-forestry activities?

The Bat HCP is for certain forest management activities. For non-forestry activities, the cave bat Broad Incidental Take Authorization/Permit may allow incidental take coverage that occurs as a result of specific public health concerns, bat removals from homes or offices, building demolitions, bridge demolitions, miscellaneous building repairs and wind energy development projects.